CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The fourth and final day of the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Championships took place on Saturday at the Mecklenburg Country Aquatics Center in Charlotte, N.C and the Carson-Newman swim team capped off an historic four days that saw both their men's and women's teams post the best finishes in program history.
The C-N men finished with a point total of 1036, an improvement of more than 200 points from where they finished the 2016 BMC Championships. They also placed third, two spots higher than last year's team. The women put on a better performance than any of their previous showings at the conference meet, piling up 1126 points to also earn a spot in third place.
Over the course of four days, 18 different Eagles earned All-BMC honors in 26 events.
The most impressive performance during the four day competition was put forth by C-N sophomore Jon Lancaster (Ringold, Ga.), who was given the award for Men's Swimmer of the Meet. He's the first student-athlete from Carson-Newman to be so honored. Lancaster earned all-conference recognition in 1000 free, the 200 individual medley and the 400 IM, where he also set a new school record. The award is determined by a combination of points earned as well as ballots cast at the event.
"These last four days have been great," swim coach Jordan Taylor said. "There were some ups and downs, but there always are in a four day meet. Our student-athletes supported each other the whole way. Everyone was trying to make it to the finals and go up against the big schools. Everyone swam their hearts out and they all wanted to do well. Jon Lancaster's honor was well deserved and it's also a special moment for the program. I couldn't have asked for anything more."
The festivities started in the morning with the preliminary races. Maggie Melhorn (Knoxville, Tenn.) took the opportunity to break a record in the 200 breaststroke for the second time this season. Her new best stands at 2:17.12, which will also be the new top mark in the C-N record book.
Margaret Stansberry (Knoxville, Tenn.) accomplished the team's best finish of the night in 100 free, coming in second behind only Alexis Divelbiss from Wingate. Stansberry's time of 50.44 is the second-best in the history of the swim team and less than a second off the Mossy Creek record.
Three events later, Caleb Howell's (Easley, S.C.) time of 2:01.46 in the 200 breaststroke put him up atop the program record book in that race. Howell shattered a three-year-old mark by more than half-a-second and in doing so earned a sixth place finish.
The competition ended with the 400 free relay and the foursome of Stansberry, Lisa Postma (Leiden, Holland), Elly Culp (West End, N.C.) and Mary Northcutt (Huntsville, Ala.) made sure C-N went out with a bang. They teamed up to break another school record, the tenth and final one rewritten at the event. By turning in a time of 3:26.44, they outdid the old mark by less than a second and ended their time in Charlotte with one more milestone under their belt.
The day also included the seventh and eighth Paralympic American records in the S8 class broken by Robert Griswold (Freehold, N.J.). During Saturday's time trials, the Paralympic bronze medalist broke his own national best in the 200 fly and 200 back. He put up a time of 2:14.97 in the fly, nearly four seconds better than the mark he set more than a year ago and edged out his previous record in the backstroke by a few hundredths of a second.
"Robert was targeting the conference meet as a chance to break all of these records," Taylor said. "He wants to break all the national records by the time he graduates. It's a tribute to his determination. He's got his sights set on some bigger meets in Europe this summer and he wanted to use this week as a measuring stick to get ready for those competitions."
Only one thing remains for C-N's swimmers and that is to await word on their status for the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships. For updates regarding the program, visit cneagles.com and follow @cnathletics on Twitter.